Reciprocal radicalisation

Reciprocal radicalisation or cumulative extremism. These recent terms relate to a symbiotic political relationship whereby the extremism of one group fuels the narrative of the other.

According to James Hardy’s report published by the CARR Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, researchers have shown that the effects are a ratcheting up of violence inspired by the acts of diametrically opposed groupings, as with the 34 attacks on mosques following the brutal 22 May 2013 Islamist murder of Lee Rigby in London.

To date, much scholarship has focused on the relationship between radical-right and Islamist extremists, despite little empirical evidence for the actions of right-wing extremists directly inspiring the actions of radical Islamists, except in anomalous cases. By contrast, it is absolutely the case that Islamist extremists have inspired radical-right racism and even political violence.

Great Britain has exhibited a gradual ratcheting up of radical activism in recent months. Galvanised by American protests against the gruesome killing of George Floyd, UK protesters began to advance in the conflict. Yet far-right groups saw the desecration of statues – exemplified by the toppling of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol – as well as graffiti on war memorials and the Churchill statue in Parliament Square, as an attack on UK values and history.

Much like in the US, the two sides have now been thrown into direct conflict, as elements of the British radical-right used the protests to mobilise supporters. Hundreds of far-right activists made the trip to London in June to join protests in defence of statues, with Paul Golding, leader of the right-wing extremist group Britain First, stating they had turned out to “guard our monuments”.

In the United States, seemingly as a by-product of the Black Lives Matter movement, some far-left activists have fed into radical-right narratives.

Unlike the majority of left-wing activists, Antifa militants have used violence in some confrontations with the far right, as seen recently during a counter-demonstration against a ‘free speech demonstration’ staged in San Francisco.

Furthermore, riots, looting and periodic civic unrest in places like Portland have buttressed an increasingly mainstream right-wing perception that the views of Antifa and the Left, in general, are somehow incompatible with contemporary US society.

The recent protests have thrown these sides of the political divide into direct conflict, with members of both groups being accused of inciting the other.


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Your biometrics will be your best password

365.-baixaBiometrics are proving to be better than passwords because they’re easier to use, provide greater privacy and security, and are gaining standardisation across a broad base of mobile, desktop, and server devices that users rely on to access online services.

The security industry has been trying to kill the password for decades. It has long been viewed as a weakness, primarily because of the human element: people continue to use weak passwords, on multiple accounts, at work, and in their personal lives. 81% of data breaches involve weak, stolen, default, or otherwise compromised credentials, according to a Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Lessons can be learned from the vendor Centrify who supported passwordless authentication and prioritised enforcing FIDO2[1]-based privileged administrator logins.

Centrify also supported Apple’s Touch ID and Face ID, as well as Windows Hello. Both Windows Hello and Windows Hello for Business are based on passwordless authentication.

Despite this, combining multiple forms of biometrics is proving problematic for the majority of vendors offering these technologies.

Product management teams have been studying the NIST 800-53[2] high-assurance authentication controls standard and integrating it into their roadmaps. The 170 controls that comprise the NIST 800-53 standard are being adopted quickly across the vendors who claim passwordless authentication as a core strength in their product strategies.

Using biometrics eliminates the risk of credential theft and provides better alignment with the NIST 800-53 high-assurance authentication controls standard.

Vendors of biometric tools are at varying levels of maturity when it comes to being able to capitalise on the metadata biometrics provides, with a few claiming to have real-time analytics. Every technology vendor had a different response to how they manage the massive amount of metadata being generated by their biometrics, which all claim also to support analytics.

Passwordless authentication ensures that login credentials are unique across every website, never stored on a server, and never leave the user’s device. This security model helps eliminate the risks of phishing, as well as all forms of password theft and replay attacks. We’re closer than ever before to the inevitable goal of a passwordless future.

[1]FIDO2: The FIDO2 Project is a joint effort between the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium whose goal is to create strong authentication for the web. At its core, FIDO2 consists of the W3C Web Authentication standard and the FIDO Client to Authenticator Protocol.

[2] NIST 800-53: The NIST Special Publication 800-53 provides a catalogue of security and privacy controls for all US federal information systems except those related to national security.


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Use of facial recognition technology extended to airports across the USA

332.- baixaFacial recognition technology is already being used by 15 airports, including three outside the US, to increase the number of pre-approved travellers using the expedited customs process.

During the last three years, CBP – Customs and Border Protection – has been rolling out facial recognition programs at entry ports across the country, including the nation’s international airports. Now, the agency wants to extend the use of technology to their optional Global Entry programme.

The Global Entry programme allows frequent, “low-risk” travellers to bypass traditional border controls and go directly to baggage claim after visiting an automatic kiosk. To date, Global Entry at most airports consists of scanning the traveller’s passport and fingerprint at the machine before clearing them to enter the country.

But from now on, the CBP wants to speed-up the process by offering pre-approved Global Entry travellers the possibility of using facial biometrics, eliminating the need for a passport or digital fingerprint.

The CBP began implementing facial recognition for Global Entry through a pilot scheme at Orlando international airport in June 2018. The programme has since been extended to 14 other airports.

The agency released a privacy impact statement detailing how the programme will roll out at airports across the country, becoming the standard for Global Entry.

Global Entry kiosks already have cameras that take photos of travellers, although many of these will be updated or replaced as the programme is expanded. The CBP also plans to include privacy notices on the upgraded machines informing travellers of the new process.

Images captured by the kiosks will be saved to the Department of Homeland Security’s automated biometric identification system – IDENT, which the agency is in the process of transferring to HART, a new and more advanced cloud-based recognition database.

For greater accuracy when comparing photos for a facial recognition match, priority is given to photographs from travel documents as well as other recent photos.

According to the privacy statement, changing to facial recognition lowers the privacy risk to travellers because the programme already took photographs at the kiosks and no longer needs to collect digital fingerprints.

An important note in the impact statement clarifies that enrolees are not required to use the facial recognition program and can instead opt to use the passport and fingerprint method, which will remain available. Should any technical issues occur during the facial recognition scan, the kiosks will automatically revert to using the passport and digital fingerprint method.

Travellers will also still be required to provide a copy of their passport and fingerprints when signing-up to the Global Entry scheme.


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An innovative strategy for reducing violence in Chicago

Grounds-or-PeaceChicago’s Grounds for Peace initiative is the direct result of an innovative push to reduce violence, fight gun crime, and manage the public areas that contribute to some of the problems. The city’s leaders have increased spending on the management of streets, vacant properties, and public transport, placing Chicago at the forefront of an emerging movement which takes advantage of neighbourhood beautification initiatives to combat the violence which has plagued day-to-day life in the city. This year alone, Chicago has spent 7.4 million dollars on workforce development programmes. The programmes place high-risk individuals in jobs tending green zones and neighbourhoods with high crime rates.

Chicago’s new programme intends to turn 50 vacant lots in the south and west of the city into gardens this year.

The programme is backed up by academic studies which suggest that violence and criminality often go hand-in-hand. The scientists believe that one of the reasons why residents no longer make use of open-air spaces is because those spaces have been neglected and abandoned. The result is that, given the fact they believe no one is likely to intervene, criminals then regard those spaces as favourable locations for conducting illicit activities. The more these areas fall into the hands of criminals, the more residents stay away. The more residents keep their distance, the more the criminals become empowered, and the crime rate goes up.

Similar movements for improvement have emerged in hundreds of towns and cities across the country, contributing to what an expert described as “the most important vacant-lot strategy” to come out of the last decade. Meanwhile, local governments have been failing to find a positive use for properties that were abandoned in the Great Recession or closed down during the financial crisis. Typically, these programmes have been justified as a means of boosting economic growth, improving quality of life for residents, and addressing general public-safety issues.

In an experiment carried out in Philadelphia, vacant lots in the most deprived areas were cleaned, organised, or in some way dealt with by public-private collaboration. Researchers demonstrated that a year and a half later, gun violence in those areas had fallen by 29%. The authors of the study concluded that if the same treatment could be applied to empty lots all over the city, Philadelphia could expect to record 350 fewer gunshots each year.

This data concurs with that of another study published in August, in which scientists found that efforts to demolish empty, abandoned buildings in Detroit was related to an 11% reduction in armed assaults.

Can parks help cities to fight crime?
It’s important to point out that neither of the studies found evidence that the violence moved to other neighbourhoods.

Allan Mallach, a member of the Centre for Community Progress who has written extensively on the rise of vacant properties in the United States, stated that the beautification of the lots should be accompanied by social services and community programmes to increase community commitment and raise the socio-economic level of residents.

According to experts, residents who feel their communities have been neglected by local government sometimes view improvement programmes with suspicion. As a result, they can be reluctant to get involved. This problem was recently encountered in Detroit when the city instigated a citywide mass tree-planting scheme. However, some residents pushed back against it because they had not been consulted at the initial planning stage.


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The Organised Crime Index for Africa

The ENACT Organised Crime Index provides a multidimensional assessment of organised crime and its impact.

Tools for measuring the scope and scale of organised crime in Africa are limited. An improved evidence base is needed so that states and key agents can effectively monitor, analyse, prioritise, and address the threat presented by organised crime systematically and sustainably.

Launched in September 2019, the Organised Crime Index is informed by a baseline assessment that identifies the availability, quality, and relevance of continental data, as well as priority data.

The Index is an interactive platform on the ENACT website. It’s complemented by an annual report intended to sensitise policy-makers.

For evaluating a state’s overall vulnerability to organised crime, the model, which has three sub-indices, is designed to measure three categories of information:
The presence and magnitude of the threat, as a component of 12 types of organised crime
Risk of organised crime
State capacity and political will to respond to organised crime threats.

The juxtaposition between these three categories is analysed to arrive at a cumulative score for each African state, indicating that state’s vulnerability to organised crime threats.

Vulnerability models

Presence: the first of the three component indices concentrates on the presence of organised crime. Specifically, this index serves as a longitudinal study that aims to show how organised crime has evolved to reach its current status, which may eventually provide insights into its future evolution.

Information from the Organised Crime Index for each African state is depicted in a “flower” that combines the scores for each type of crime. These scores can be used to illustrate trends over time.

Risk: Organised Crime gangs exploit week or dysfunctional state institutions, porous borders, and disadvantages in social welfare and local political economies to continue and expand their operations. To measure a state’s risk of organised crime, the second component considers various factors, namely a state’s economy, physical geography, natural resources, social cohesion and conflict, as well as its global trade.

Response: As a third index, state capacity and political will are measured based on the awareness that a state demonstrates in the fight against organised crime. This includes whether they have appropriate legal, political, and strategic frameworks in place to deal with organised crime, as well as whether they are actually achieving results. This index assesses a state’s actions in combating organised crime, noting this capacity and its precursors for the implementation of actual strategic policies.

One component of the Organised Crime Index includes the Data Dashboard, which provides a comparison of two of the broad metrics: the presence and the impact of organised crime.

Presence:  The dashboard compiles data from 12 individual crime types from the Organised Crime Index. It allows users to see the scale of crime subsets for each particular type of crime. For example, “Maritime crimes”, could include subsets like “piracy” and “illegal, unregulated, or unreported fishing activities”.

Impact: The Dashboard provides crime-sensitive indicators to assess the correlations between the five impact areas: security and violence; economy; social development; environment; and governance and democracy. Each of these impact areas is comprised of a series of components to which the user can add a particular crime type and see its impact in the selected area. For example, the correlation between “human trafficking” and the “gender-based violence” or “terrorism” components of the “security and violence” impact area can be seen.


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Frontex, applying the latest systems to combat document forgery

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex, 2004) helps member states of the EU and associate countries of the Schengen Area to administer their exterior borders and contribute to harmonise border controls between European Union countries. The Agency facilitates cooperation between the border authorities of each EU country, offering technical support and experience.

According to the EU commission on the application of the action plan to strengthen the European Union response to travel documentation, a technical report has been being prepared since April 2018 about norms for inspection systems. To support this activity, Frontex is developing a methodology to assess and analyse the performance of document inspection systems.

A key achievement is the increase in operative support from the Centre of Excellence of Frontex against the falsifying of documents, in operation since February 2018. This centre sends personnel from Frontex to in situ operations on external borders, collaborates with the exchange of information regarding document forgery and expects to create a Forgery Office to provide permanent technical and operative support for the control of documents. Moreover, it manages the Group of Experts in Document Control, with the aim of coordinating the general support given to state members for the detection of forged documents, and work in close collaboration with the horizontal group of experts in forged documents, created within the framework in the EU 2018-2021 actions cycle to break up organised crime networks involved in trafficking false and forged documents. The Centre is completing a new proposal for a normalised alerts format.

Furthermore, regarding improvements to the gathering of data concerning phenomena related to the forging of documents, Frontex maintains the Network for the analysis of risks of document forgery in the European Union -EDF-RAN – and gathers information about identities and false documents detected on external borders and movements within the Schengen/EU area.

Concerning the promotion of training activities in new areas related to document forgery, Frontex, in association with the Centre of Identification of the Eindhoven Academy (Netherlands), developed a pilot course about the recognition of identity that includes references to the management of identity, the technology of microcircuits, biometrics and the means of detection of digital fraud.

The main task of the Centre of Excellence of Frontex is to support the fight against document forgery in joint operations. The Centre of Excellence of Frontex created a new proposal in 2018 concerning the creation of a normalised alert format. Now Frontex has developed a reference manual for border guards that contains images of passports, identity cards and visas, to help to determine if the document presented is genuine or not.

On 25th March 2019 some workshops called ‘Frontex Document Olympics’ took place with experts in documentation from all over Europe participating in the first Frontex Olympic Games. The Olympics involved finding the largest amount of forged documentation per minute: participating in a pair of scenarios, including the verification of travel documents in an airport and other types of support given to irregular immigrants (like birth or marriage certificates) at a public entry point.


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The Chicago police force uses computer algorithms to assess the risk of a threat

Could a computer predict violence? In Chicago, Illinois, an algorithm assesses everyone arrested by the police with a score of between 1 and 500. The process has been carried out for four years, and almost 400,000 Chicago citizens now have an official risk score for the police authorities.

This algorithm questioned by the law teacher of Columbia University, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson – the method has still not been made public – is part of a police strategy and may change street investigations. It may also mean a police-related big data in the US, depending on how it is perceived, whether it is an innovative focus for the reduction of violence or as an example of data-based social control.

In effect, the personalised threat score is shown automatically on police computer screens so that the officer can know the relative risk involved in stopping a suspect. The predictive score also who a proactive police intervention is aimed at. These interventions may range from a visit to a home carried out by police officers, to an extra police surveillance or a community meeting, and will transmit the same clear message: the police are watching you.

And while Chicago is at the forefront of predictive surveillance, it is not the only city. Other cities like New York and Los Angeles are thinking of a way to use the police-related big data to guide interventions involving risky individuals.

Predictive control based on people began in 2009 as an attempt to apply a public health focus on violence. The key is to identify predictive risk factors and try to resolve the underlying environmental causes. Chicago investigators developed an algorithm so that the police could give priority to those individuals with the highest risk score by analysing: past arrests for violent crime, weapon or narcotic-related crime, age when most recently arrested (the younger, the higher the score), incidents where the individual was the victim of an assault and criminal activity trend (whether this is increasing or decreasing). A computer then classifies the variables and writes a relative threat score to determine the probability of firearm use.

The police state that the guidance system points out the high percentage of victims of gunshots that could be predicted with precision. Critics have pointed out that the objective is excessive and ineffective, including dozens of thousands of people with high scores, but with no previous record of arrest for violent crime.

It is thought to be worrying that the threat score affects the equity of interaction between the police and people in the street. High-risk scores guide strategies to stop violence, which influence police contacts and those under closest surveillance. But threat scores also distort everyday police decisions about the use of force and reasonable suspicion. After all, once the police has the information that a person has a high threat score, this knowledge will increase crime-related suspicion and will increase the perceived danger, causing more frequent and aggressive interactions with people that the algorithm considers to be “high risk”.

This bias can also jeopardise the system. As described by the investigation by the Division of Civil Rights of the Department of Justice in 2017 of the Chicago Police Department, racial discrimination patterns continue to be a real problem. While one could expect the justice algorithm to avoid human bias, the reality is that these insertions (especially arrests) are affected by discretional decisions by all police officers as they patrol or investigate the suspect of a crime. Therefore, although the mathematics of big data may be “objective”, entries are not exempt of human bias, thereby distorting the final results.

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European Union: improvements in urban security for the disabled

Europe is an urban continent. Four out of every five people live in a city. For those 80 million European citizens that have some kind of disability going to the city can be very complicated. People with disabilities and reduced mobility have the right to move independently; therefore, is there a way to design cities so that they can be more accessible to all?

WheelchairThe latest strategy published by the European Union was aimed at railway passengers. Members of the European Parliament have revealed that they wish to reinforce the rights of railway passengers all over the European territory. The members of parliament consider that there ought be greater financial compensation if there are delays and they also request more assistance for disabled people. All European railway companies should guarantee free assistance for people with a disability or reduced mobility. They should also guarantee total compensation for loss of or damage to mobility equipment, and for loss of or damage to guide animals.

In 2011, Europe was able to enjoy the first integrated rights of passengers that covered all means of transport. To better consolidate these rights, the European Commission reviewed them in September of the same year. The organ defined 10 passenger rights: related to non-discrimination, accessibility, information, assistance, compensation, responsibility; and their application to all forms of transport. Regarding the pathway to creating a sole transport area in Europe, the Commission stressed the need for quality systems, both accessible and secure, for all transport services, as a way to promote public transport. It also insisted on the need to make transport measures more accessible for the elderly and people with a disability or reduced mobility.

Moreover, the European Union is working to achieve a common legislation in all member states to be able to cover the basic needs of disabled people whatever European country they are in. For example, if a person with a recognised disability moves to another country of the EU, he/she can lose access to national benefits like the possibility to have free use of public transport or at a reduced price.

According to the United Nations, there are different populations that can suffer similar risks as they are exposed to the negative effects of the city, caused by the atmosphere and humans themselves. However, their vulnerability will depend on their socioeconomic conditions, their civic and social prestige, and their access to mitigation and support resources. Currently, there are many projects at a local level that are trying to create better urban and road safety.

The network of local projects can create a trend and influence other European cities.



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Notable and sustained drop in juvenile crime in Australia

young offenders in AustraliaThe Australian Institute of Criminology has published the results of a research project carried out by Payne, Brown and Broadhurst about the criminal career of the generations born in 1984 and 1994. It involved finding out what influence criminal trends during a person’s first years of life had. 1984 was a year when the crime rate was consistently increasing, whereas 1994 saw a downward trend. The study focused on the population in the state of New South Wales, which, furthermore, is the most populated in the country. The generation of 1984 consisted of 83,328 persons and that of 1994, of 89,373.

The results were very clear. The percentage of people under 21 that have committed some type of crime fell from 9.5% to 4.8%. If we separate them into different crime typologies, we find that:

  • Violent crime fell from 2.6% to 1.8% (a 42% drop).
  • Crimes against property fell from 3.8% to 1.7%.
  • Crimes against public health (drugs) fell from 1.7% to 1.3%.
  • Cases of affray fell from 3.3% to 1.9%.

In overall numbers, young people (-21) of the 1984 generation committed 7,900 crimes, whereas those of the 1994 generation committed 4,341.

The study divides criminals into occasional criminals (1 crime), moderates (between 2 and 4 crimes) and chronic cases (5 or more). In this case, the comparison shows that for the 94 generation the relative importance of chronic criminals is bigger. While in the case of the 84 generation chronic criminals committed 23.1% of all crimes, the percentage among the 94 generation was 31.5%. Therefore, although they are less in the first group (1.5% as opposed to 2.2%), they are much more prolific criminals.

Regarding the reasons underlying this reduction in youth crime, the study points out the following:

  • The improvement in security for both private and public property (security measures and the design of buildings and vehicles).
  • The increase in wealth in New South Wales, which has improved its inhabitants’ standard of living.
  • The reduction in time that minors spend in the street without any form of supervision (online activities at home are stated as one of the causes, but that could lead to other types of network-related crime).
  • The reduction in the number of youths that casually get involved in a criminal career.


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The long road towards modernising crime statistics (2)

Last week we published a post about the new classification of crimes proposed in the USA. Here we are going to reveal the main conclusions and proposals of the second report that has been published, in 2018, by the same group of experts about the system to quantify crime.

The new classification entails a change in the concept of ‘crime’ that is not based on people’s behaviour patterns rather than a legal definition. The objective is that, whatever the source used to gather the information, similar incidents are assigned the same category. For example, refraining from considering an incident to be ‘sexual assault’ in the survey (due to the conduct it motivates) and ‘sexual abuse’ in police data (because of the legal definition that regulates it). With this objective, the new inventory considerably increases the amount of categories and gathers facts that were previously not quantified.

Accordingly, a fundamental step towards discovering the differences between the incidents that are recorded in current statistics (both in police records and crime surveys) and the new classification: the typologies incorporated in some cases correspond to emerging factors, and in other cases it involves categories that are only now included in statistical data although they were already considered to be serious problems (such as acts against the environment or animals).

The proposal presented by the group does not consist of the creation of a system to gather and analyse completely new data; alternatively, it promotes the improvement and modification of current systems (both regarding police data and those from surveys), in order to adapt it the collection of data in the new categories. It also foresees the incorporation of sources of complementary information, especially for the added categories to the new classification and for those that may encounter difficulties when obtaining data.

Moreover, they remind us that neither can all sources of information gather the same data, nor is the same information about the crimes necessary. Accordingly, the system also has to be flexible to adapt to these differences.

The biggest emphasis is placed on the system for gathering police data, as it has evolved less over recent years than surveys, which have gone through more continuous processes of review and improvement. For the evolution towards the new system to be viable, the report proposes steady implementation of improvements as soon as possible, when minimum levels are achieved, and to continue perfecting these until an optimum level is reached.

The present system’s biggest drawback is that neither the FBI nor the BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics have a leading role in the gathering of data and their responsibilities are diluted. Consequently, there is no clear alignment regarding their sets of data. The authors demand that there be some nature of organism to provide this leadership and recommend that the Bureau should be responsible for the budget and for institutional management to explore and decide how coordination should be put into practice, and be responsible for this joint management, and also for the future review of the classification system.

To sum up, the intention is to go from a system that counts known crimes, principally based on crimes reported, to a system that gathers information about crime, with the intention that the statistical system allows for data analysis from different points of view (geographical, demographical, sociological and economic) and aims to provide more information than simply counting the number of criminal offences committed.

The complete reports can be consulted at:

Modernizing Crime Statistics

Report 1: Defining and Classifying Crime (2016)

Report 2: New Systems for Measuring Crime (2018)


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